Monday, October 17, 2016

Outreach and Relationship Building

Full confession: I was worried about making this jump from the social studies classroom to the library. Let's face it, I had some obstacles to overcome:

  1. I was certified in the Alternative Route to Certification in CT. Would people take my credentials seriously?
  2. I taught social studies for 23 years. Would people trust my respect for and understanding of their non-social studies curricula and pedagogy?
  3. This move is a professional challenge I seek voluntarily. Why do (some) people think I'm burning out and just looking for an easy coast through my last years before retirement?
OK. Question three is EASY to answer. Anyone who thinks I am coasting has no idea what a good library media specialist does, can do, or is willing to do. I aspire to be a great one!

Questions one and two are more complex, but they have a common thread: in this new role, how will I build relationships with people in various departments so they understand, trust, and call upon my capacity as a supportive co-teacher and resource? And, how do I manage this in the shadow of an incredibly accomplished, visionary librarian, with whom they are all acquainted and in whom they all trust?

Well, @mluhtala is not just accomplished and visionary she is collegial, professionally generous, and thoroughly respectful. I am not allowed in her shadow. I stand side-by-side with her, and that speaks volumes about her trust in me which transfers to the rest of our fellow faculty. In fact, when deciding on costumes for a spirit day at school, it was suggested that we be Peter Pan and his shadow. What a cool partner costume idea! And, you have to know that we look alike. A LOT a like. But Michelle said: no, period. We work as equals.

So, I have this tremendous partnership going for me. Now, how do I leave the library, meet colleagues, and encourage them to share their students and class time with me? How do I show -- not just tell them -- them that I can be a valuable partner? How do I advocate for myself and the value of the library in the important work they are doing with their students?

I started with book recommendations.

And my colleagues in the Science department.

The library is on the first floor. The science department is on the third floor. When were our paths ever going to cross? So I sent an email explaining that I wanted our students to know that the teachers read for pleasure. That seeing adults modeling this habit would increase their independent reading. I invited everyone in the department to share with me a favorite book -- fiction or non-fiction -- all they had to do was email me the title and author. When they sent me a recommendation, I took their picture and added it to a Google slide with a picture of the book cover. When I had about seven or eight recommendations compiled, I shared the slides with the department so they could see what the display would look like. Quickly, I had several other teachers send their suggestions.

For the month of October we have featured the science department's favorite books as a display near the entrance of the library. Some people chose what they are currently reading, one teacher recommended her favorite book from high school, another recommended an entire series! And these recommendations are being noticed! Students walk by the display on their way in and out of the library and say things like: "Oh, I have (teacher's name), what's that book?" or in conversation with a friend: "I read that, too! You would really like it."

So, to my science colleagues: thank you, thank you, thank you for helping to get students pleasure reading! And, thank you for entertaining my invitation, even if it felt a little funny to have a new Ms. Luhtala-look-alike take your picture when you weren't sure what I was going to do with it. Thank you for the opportunity to introduce myself to you and chat about books! Thank you for welcoming me to your department meeting and into classes to show students how to access great resources for science research. 

We are teachers and learners. Books are something we all have in common. What a great starting point; I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration!

Next month, we will feature the multi-lingual book recommendations of the World Language department. I sent out their invitation today.

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